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The Moral Life of Babies

There is an article in today’s Sunday NY Times Magazine about experiments done at Yale on the moral life of babies, accompanied, on the NY Times website, by a video of some babies watching “naughty” and “nice” puppets, and then, on being offered the puppets by the experimenter, picking the nice puppet:…

If you watch the video, it’s hard not to think of the Clever Hans syndrome; the experimenters seem to be very close to prompting the babies to take the “nice” puppet, sometimes pulling away the “nasty” one as soon as the baby looks at the nice one, and talking very nicely to the babies as soon as they start to make the right choice.

From personal observation of small children, I know how quickly they can understand the world. But if the video actually reflects the experiments, then it seems plausible to me that the baby seems to be trying to win the approval of the experimenter for the choice it’s making.

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